In case you were wondering, I'm far from done with book reviews, though I am trying to spread them out a bit! Either way, I couldn't wait to share this book with you all, since it's one of my new favorite felting books (a lovely gift from my husband)! If the Complete Photo Guide to Felting leaves you wanting more when it comes to 2D felting, Art in Felt & Stitch by Moy Mackay (ISBN: 978-1-84448-563-5) will keep you busy.
I actually had been wondering if there were any decent 2D felting books out there. Most felting books cover various 3D felting projects. And, by 2D felting, I don't mean just wet felting. When it comes to wool paintings, there seems to be mainly two groups of felters: those who lay out the project and then wet felt it, and those who needle felt the whole "painting" by hand (I fall into the latter category). There are a few that do a combination of both, and that's where this book comes in. I haven't found a wool painting book that deals with just needle felted wool paintings yet. hmmm... maybe I should write one...
You see, there are a few reasons why I choose to needle felt my wool paintings. First, it has to do with the ability to control and make sure that where I place something is going to be precisely where I want it to be. Wet felting, with practice, seems to allow a fairly decent amount of control, however you're still dealing with shrinkage, it will shift a bit, and if you aren't consistent when it comes to rolling your wool painting fivehundredthousandtimes in every single direction imaginable, it will come out skewed. I don't have the patience or the time for that, lol. By that I mean uninterrupted time. With needle felting, if I need to pause and immediately tend to something else, all I have to do is put the needle down. Plus, with a 4 year old constantly rambling on and asking me questions in her invented language, or asking me to look up every five seconds to look at whatever it is she wants me to look at, I lose count. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that she's so insanely creative and I really try my best not to destroy her natural ability for divergent thinking (all kids have that and it's lost as they get older, check out Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk "Do Schools Kill Creativity?"), but in an effort to keep up with her 24/7, my brain is fried. Another reason of course is that it's a bit messier, and something I would prefer to do in the summer months when I don't mind getting wet.
HOWEVER, I do like the idea of wet felting backgrounds and then adding onto it with needle felting and other techniques. It does help to get past the blank-canvas-syndrome, much like when my art teacher would have us cover our canvas with gesso (or Bob Ross and his Liquid White). You already got something down, there's no going back.
When it comes to the book, it's not just about the techniques, of which there are a few. There is needlefelting, embroidery, free-motion stitching, even a section how how to blend wool using hand carders (which I've mentioned a few times in the past and my recent video with the dog portrait shows a bit of that in uber-fast speed)... OMG the free motion stitching! I am absolutely in love! You see, for me personally, this book is really about the inspiration. The art is absolutely beautiful. Unlike some books where the projects and photos were taken for the purpose of providing a simple project, this book has tutorials on creating works of art. I love the contrast between the softness of the wet-felted wool, the hard lines of the stitches, and the texture of the embroidery. It's totally my style.
Getting into the nitty-gritty of it, the book starts off with a section on materials, with quite a bit more devoted to the topic of tools and wools than was provided in Wool Pets (not comprehensive, but more than enough to get started). I did learn about a few things, for example the idea of using gold leaf and glitter, though I have brushed pearl-ex powder on a finished piece in the past so not too dissimilar. I love her addition of a chapter of inspiration to the book, which she separates into sections by color, texture, and composition (and that's not including the inspiration by topic, such as sections on landscapes or birds). Her section on blending wool colors is probably one of the best I've seen yet, even going as far as to include a page showing you the colors she blended and the resulting outcome. It's a really great way to help someone new to blending visualize what the end result will be, something that's hard to explain without experimenting on your own. I'm not sure if you all picked up on my recent obsession with blending... Anyway, I do like how she has a slightly different way of doing things than what I've seen so far, like not using the shingling method for laying down fiber for wet felting, and how she really goes into detail with the wool painting aspect of it. I don't know about you but whenever I've watched videos on wet felting, first you spend 30 minutes shingling tiny tufts of wool, remembering to criss-cross between layers, and then they do some odd shapes and squiggles reminiscent of 90's abstract hotel art (is that too harsh?). They're just not inspiring. I don't want to give away too much more of the book, but I'll add that in addition to this great source of information and inspiration, there are 5 very involved projects in the book, each one a different theme. Instead of 5 landscapes, it's more like 2 landscapes and three other projects that are completely different.
Great art books shouldn't just be about teaching you something new. It should give you information you can "steal." And by stealing, I mean stealing like an artist (look up Austin Kleon if you don't know what I'm talking about). Art project books out there are a dime a dozen, but once you get past the projects, then what? With this one, even if you follow along with every single project, I guarantee you'll still want to keep it as part of your collection. It's that beautiful. No, it's not a cheap book (especially for a paperback), but if you're wanting to expand on your wool painting skills, I think you'll find it well worth the price.